A site of historical significance
The name of Le Caudan Waterfront comes from a famous figure of the past, Jean Dominique Michel de Caudan, who came to former Isle de France from Languedoc (a department in the South of France).
He started a saltpan in 1726, close to a small bay in the southwest of Port-Louis. This area, now known as the Robert Edward Hart Garden, is situated on the entrance road to Le Caudan Waterfront.
A historical site, the peninsula called Le Caudan was created around a fossil coral islet, hosting a powder magazine, an astronomic and meteorological observatory, quays, warehouses and various small enterprises over the last 250 years. The daily routine of this popular harbor followed the pace of the sugar industry until the creation of the Bulk Sugar Terminal in 1980. From these 150 years of millions of sugar bags transiting by boat, train or trucks, carried by hundreds of hands, only a few old walls still stand today to speak to the mind…
Several popular spots of Le Caudan Waterfront bear a strong historical significance. The first meteorological observatory of the Indian Ocean now hosts the Food Court and the Namasté restaurant. The building hosting the Blue Penny Museum was the former Docks office.
The appellations of the different wings of the complex are indeed reminiscent of episodes of the country’s rich history:
• The main building, known as Barkly Wharf, was named after Sir Henry Barkly, Member of Parliament of the British government and appointed governor of Mauritius from 1863-1870.
• Le Pavillon wing: an ancient map of Port Louis reveals the existence of Pavillon Street exactly where the Pedestrian Alley of Le Caudan is now located. It is speculated that the origin of this appellation might date back to the period when Port Louis was called ‘Port Napoléon’.
• Dias Pier, the most recent wing of Le Caudan Waterfront, is a tribute to Diogo Dias, brother of the famous navigator Barthoulomeu Dias. Based on some historical evidence, it is believed that Diogo Dias was the first to record the Mascarene Islands, which include Mauritius, on a navigation map.
A Cultural Walk
An Itinerary through the Capital City
Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, is the home of big business and financial institutions, colourful markets, street hawkers, colonial buildings, shops, churches and mosques. The main points of interest in Port Louis are best appreciated by following a historical and cultural itinerary to fully enjoy all that the city has to offer.
Le Caudan Waterfront is the starting point of the Port-Louis Cultural Walk. This project was launched in 1997 in collaboration with the Port-Louis Municipal Council and traces an itinerary through the capital city, to historical and cultural sites: old markets and buildings, the gate to China Town, the oldest religious monuments and a garden at the heart of Port-Louis. An information board is set on each of these sites. Le Caudan Waterfront constitutes the first two stages of this itinerary, namely via The Observatory and the Blue Penny Museum.
Built between 1831 and 1832 by engineer John Augustus Lloyd, the Observatory stands on the ruins of an old powder magazine from the times of Mahé de Labourdonnais. As the first meteorological observatory in the Indian Ocean, it was used for cyclone warnings and astronomic observation, contributing greatly to the weather forecast in the harbour. It was an essential tool for calculating longitude at sea.
When the Royal Engineer Observatory started to operate, the old Observatory was sold in October 1866 to the New Mauritius Docks Company. The tower was brought down around 1880, leaving behind a square stone-and-bricks building, reflecting the historical evolution on the Waterfront.
The Blue Penny Museum
This building was erected next to the old Caudan, in the place of the New Mauritius Dock Company Head Office, of which the stone walls have been preserved and still bear the date of construction (1930). Converted into a historic heritage and art museum, the Blue Penny Museum was founded by the Mauritius Commercial Bank and inaugurated on 27th November 2001. It is named after the legendary and very rare 2-pence Blue Stamp, one of the two renowned ‘Post Office’ stamps engraved in 1847 by Joseph Osmond Barnard for the Mauritian Post. An issue of these stamps is displayed in the museum.